Lori Henriksen

author of The Winter Loon



In The Winter Loon, all the cowgirls roll their own smokes. Rollie theaches Ruth the technique, and Ruth takes up smoking right away, splurging on cheap loose tobacco and rolling papers. Back home, Ruth stops smoking to save money until she meets Gisela who offers her a Pall Mall from the red and white package.

No wonder women in the 1930s were hooked on cigarettes.

Cigarettes were chic:



Cigarettes were sexually alluring:




Cigarettes were healthy and good for you:





Here are some interesting facts from an American Public Health Association article: The Physician in U.S. cigarette advertising 1930-1953.

During the 1920s, the first medical reports linking smoking to cancer appeared. Many newspaper editors refused to publish rather than offend tobacco companies and lose advertising dollars.

Advertising slogans in the 1930s promoted the advantages of smoking. A Luckies campaign extolled the virtues of staying slim – “Reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet.” Another Luckies ad suggested: 20,679 physicians say Luckies are less irritating.

Phillip Morris jumped on the bandwagon in 1937, taking an ad in The Saturday Evening Post that said, “According to a group of doctors . . . when smokers changed to Phillip Morris, every case of irritation cleared completely and definitely improved.

Advertisements appeared in medical journals for the first time in the 1930s–tobacco companies’ effort to develop a symbiotic relationship with physicians.

It wasn’t until the 1950s and 60s that major medical reports confirmed smoking causes serious disease.




Rodeo athletes from the 1920s and 1930s were talented and tough. One woman who changed the landscape of rodeo is Bonnie McCarroll. She was from southern Idaho and won many bronc riding contests, including Cheyenne, Madison Square Garden and Wembley, England.

McCarroll wasn’t competing at Pendleton the day she was killed, September 19, 1929. She was thirty-four years old, giving her last performance  as an exhibition before retirement. The organizers assigned a bronc named Black Cat for her to ride. According to a description from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, Black Cat fell and went into a forward somersault. He recovered and began to buck, but McCarroll was riding hobbled and her left foot caught in the stirrups.

Riding hobbled means tying the stirrups together beneath the horse. It was considered an easier, but more dangerous method than riding slick with stirrups loose. The Pendleton roundup required that women ride hobbled even though McCarroll preferred to ride slick. The rest is history and documented in the film by Steve Wurstas called From Cheyenne to Pendleton: The Rise and Fall of the Rodeo Cowgirl. Here’s a trailer. The film is on DVD and available from libraries



Outlaw Women



Outlaw women have been romanticized in print and film. The desperate times of the 1930s had a fair share of women gangsters. This is just a partial list of the women who became famous from a life of crime.

Bonnie Parker ~ Probably the most famous female villain. She’s been portrayed in movies: 1958 The Bonnie Parker Story, 1992TV movie Bonnie and Clyde-A True Story, 2013 TV mini-series Bonnie and Clyde. Faye Dunaway played Bonnie in the Oscar-winning Bonnie and Clyde in 1967.

Helen Gillis ~ Married to Lester “Baby Face Nelson” Gillis. In her 20s, the mother of two babies, she was on the Public Enemy Shoot to Kill list because of her close affiliation with her husband’s murder and mayhem. She surrendered to a the FBI after Gillis’ death and was sentenced to a year and a day in prison.

Pearl Elliott ~ A notorious madam connected to John Dillinger and his mentor, Harry Peipont who was executed in 1934. Pearl was also on the Shoot to Kill list, but died of natural causes at age 47.

Marie Baker ~ Called the Pretty Pants Bandit. After committing a robbery, she would demand the shop clerks to take off their pants. She always carried two guns. She served three years in prison as Mrs. Rose Durante and then disappeared.

Virginia Hills ~ Bugsy Siegel’s girlfriend nicknamed The Flamingo after his Las Vegas Casino. She was portrayed by Annette Bening in the movie Bugsy and is the subject of Bugsy’s Baby: The Secret Life of Mob Queen Virginia Hill, a book by Andy Edmonds.

Evelyn Flechette ~ Nicknamed Billie, she was John Dillinger’s girlfriend and accompanied him on a cross-country crime spree. Some say she was more of a housewife, caring for his needs, than an accomplice in crime. She did, however, survive several shootouts and spent two years in prison. She sold her stories to the magazine, True Confessions and True Romance, and the Chicago Herald Examiner newspaper. Upon her release, she went on a lecture tour Crime Doesn’t Pay.

Bonnie Parker.jpegHelen GillisPearl ElliottMarie BakerVirginia HillEvelyn Frechette.jpeg

Bonnie Parker, Helen Gillis, Pearl Elliott, Marie Baker, Virginia Hills, and Evelyn Flechette.

For more fugitives, outcasts, robbers and bandits, check out Outlaw Women, Notorious Daughters, Wives and Mothers by Robert Barr Smith. Available on Amazon.


This gallery contains 22 photos




 Movies were not just cheap entertainment. Movies influenced women’s place in society and perceptions of themselves and others.

Movies of the 1930s can be divided into the before and after of the Production Code of 1934. Until the Production Code went into effect between 1933 and 1934, Censorship was lax with few strict regulations on sex, vice, violence and morals.

Looking back to movies produced before the Code, feminist movie critic, Molly Haskell observes, “Women were conceived of as having sexual desire without being freaks or villains . . . Women were entitled to initiate sexual encounters, to pursue men, even to embody certain ‘male’ characteristics without being stigmatized as ‘unfeminine’ or predatory.”

Marlene Dietrich in Morocco, Blonde Venus and She Done Him Wrong. Miriam Hopkins in Design for Living, Greta Garbo in Susan Lenox, Her Rise and Fall, and Queen Christina portray some of the pre-code, liberated heroines. Mae West played characters in She Done Him Wrong and I’m No Angel who openly exploited men for her own pleasure.

The Production Code of 1934 changed the landscape of movies. No more passionate embraces or Mae West steamy sexuality. No exposure of sex organs (the chimp in Tarzan wore a body stocking). No revealing clothing. Twin beds even for married couples. Crime punished. Traditional roles and marriage sacred.

After the Production Code, there were films of young working women making it on their own terns who seemed to gladly give in when the right man came along. Ginger Rogers starred in Gold Diggers. She also starred with Katharine Hepburn, Andrea Leeds and Lucille Ball in Stage Door where men make only token appearances.

And movies with comic relief were popular. Claudette Colbert in It Happened One Night. Katharine Hepburn in Bringing up Baby and Holiday. Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday. Irene Dunne in The Awful Truth. In these and other comedies, women were somewhat wacky, but with brains of their own.

There were many strong women played by Jean Harlow, Joan Crawford, Bette Davis and other talented actresses throughout the 1930s. The moral code clamped down and attempted to conceal what simmered under the surface, but could not stop Hollywood from expressing human nature. The Code was in effect for thirty years.


Bette Davis, Katharine Hepburn, Claudette Colbert, Greta Garbo, Jean Harlow, Marlene Dietrich, Mae West and Ginger Rogers.

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Lesbians 1930s


No surprise. Not much to report from the 1930s on women with emotional and sexual attraction to other women.

The “liberated” young college women of the 1930s wore makeup. Some drank alcohol in mixed company. Smoking was no longer disgraceful and now considered sexy. Many young women went to college to husband hunt with education as a secondary goal.

Changes in sexual mores had been underway since the 1920s. By the 1930s on college campuses a dramatic change in attitude had occurred. A 1938 study of over one thousand college students uncovered new standards of permissible behavior—premarital sex with a fiancé and a clear commitment to marriage, justified the intimacy. The shift in attitudes did nothing help lesbians. The word wasn’t even widely used until much later.

Lesbians have been ignored, persecuted and labeled as deviant. It wasn’t until the 1960s and 1970s that limited acceptance was gained in the U.S. Then in 1997, Ellen DeGeneres came out on national television. Almost twenty years ago, but still lots of relevance.


And here is a link to a list of books BuzzFeed:



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Just for Fun


The Depression years were grim, but people still found ways to have fun.

Radio provided free entertainment in the home. The sound effects stimulated imaginations and listening was like being there. The child in the behind the scenes look at sound effects in the radio sees the action he is hearing as he listens to a Western broadcast. Check out the video:



Radio provided something for everyone ~ Comedy, Drama, Mystery, SciFi, Westerns, Detective stories and News programs.

Eleanor Roosevelt addressed the nation before the President did  on her weekly radio show, December 7, 1941. She spoke to the nation and specifically to the women  ~ women who had been inspired by her throughout the 1930s.


Movies allowed a glimpse into other worlds.

Gone with Wind Wizard of OzKing Kong.jpg

The glamorous stars ~ Bette Davis, Lauren Bacall, Greta Garbo, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Judy Garland, Humphry Bogart, Clark Gable to just name a few ~ for a short time could erase the reality of lost jobs, drudgery and childcare.

Theatre giveaways lured women out of the home to the movies. Ladies night featured lower rates for women. There was Dish Night when, with frequent trips to the movie theatre, a woman could accumulate complete sets  of dishes and glassware. Check your attic. Depression glass is valuable today.


There were raffles for appliances and even automobiles to make going to the movies a fun adventure.




Bill “Bojangles” Robinson and Shirley Temple

Have some fun today and thanks for stopping by.


Inspiring Women


Inspiring ~ Encouraging, Heartening, Stimulating, Influential

Today I’m listing a few of the outstanding women of the 1930s. It was a time of hardship, but also a time when women made strides toward changing their place in the world. They are listed in no particular order or importance and many more could be added to this list.

Amelia Earhart ~ 1932 is the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.

Jane Addams ~ 1931 is the first woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize for her work with the poor in Chicago.

Karen Horney ~ 1939 published New Ways in Psychoanalysis, challenging Freudian conceptions of female psychology.

Margaret Mitchell ~ 1936 published Gone With the Wind and gave us Scarlett O’Hara one of the first complex female protagonists written from the perspective of a woman. Scarlett O’Hara dramatizes gender roles and expectations for women, and along with the rest of the characters in the book, continues to intrigue readers today.

Marian Andersen ~ 1932 was denied the right to sing at Constitution Hall in Washington D.C. because of her race. Instead she sang for 75,000 people at the Lincoln Memorial and went on to be the first black singer at the Metropolitan Opera.

Pearl S. Buck ~ 1935 won the Pulitzer Prize for The Good Earth and in 1938 became the first American woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. She published over seventy books before her death in 1975.

Dorothea Lange ~ documented the hardships of The Great Depression with her camera. She captured the suffering and injustice of the era along with the dignity of the folks she photographed. She took one of the most famous photos of the era.


Photo: Dorothea Lange

Mary McLeod Bethune ~ 1935 along with other prominent black women leaders formed the National Council of Negro Women with the philosophy, “We are seeking to make togetherness more effective.”

Frances Perkins ~ 1933 appointed Secretary of Labor by FDR, becoming the first woman Cabinet member.

Hattie Wyatt Caraway ~ 1932 the first woman elected to the U. S. Senate.


Keller 2

If you have anyone to add to the list, please let me know. As always, thanks for stopping by.





Hoovervilles ~ Shantytowns that housed destitute and unemployed during the Depression.

Built primarily on the outskirts of major cities, shantytowns were constructed by the unemployed who lived in the shacks made of found materials. Cardboard, old boards, tin, canvas—any thing would do. President Herbert Hoover was blamed for the shantytowns named for him.

Hoovervilles popped up all over the country from Seattle to New York. The shantytowns covered acres of public land.




Portland OR.jpg

Portland, Oregon

Residents begged for food. Sometimes the occupants were forced to move on, but mostly were tolerated.


Central Park

Women and children made up a good share of the population of Hoovervilles.




Times were tough for the very poorest women. In Hoovervilles one imagines that there was at least some mutual support, camaraderie and sharing. Some women chose to hit the road as hobos called, “sisters of the road,” by the men.



Gertrude Stein


Gertrude Stein ~ an icon of the 1930s

Gertrude Stein and her life partner, Alice B. Toklas, met and lived abroad. They toured the U.S. for 191 days during 1934 and 1935, while Ms. Stein gave a series of lectures. Out west the two were accepted as a couple. The Chicago Press referred to Alice as the wife or mate who protected Gertrude.

During her lectures, limited to only five hundred people, Gertrude Stein sat alone on the bare stage next to a table with a white cloth and a glass of water. She exuded a commanding presence. To some, her lectures sounded baffling. How could something that seemed so lacking of ideas be considered literary? But if one listened carefully to the rhythm of her speech, she could delight an audience as an innovative artist explaining English literature, using the relationship of one word to the next as her medium.

“Twenty-five years rolls around so quickly, but one hundred years do not roll around at all. They end, the century ends. What makes narrative difficult is a century begins and ends, but no part of it begins, and no part ends.” A Stein mind twister for sure.

According to the San Jose Mercury News in 2011, Wanda Corn, author of Seeing Gertrude Stein finds the focus on Gertrude Stein’s long-term domestic partnership with lover Alice B. Toklas timely, in light of the gay marriage issue today. “Here was a couple who really personified a long, monogamous relationship,” Corn says.

For more go to: www.gayheroes.com/gertrude.htm


Gertrude Stein

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Equality ~ Equal Rights, Civil Rights, Equal Opportunity,  Justice

During the Depression, Women who worked were criticized for taking jobs away from men. With sixty percent of people unemployed, only a minority of women worked outside the home. The Labor Secretary, Frances Perkins, encouraged a public stance of family unity, urging women to avoid paid work. “Don’t steal a job from a man,” became a popular slogan.

Despite public hostility, employers still hired women because they worked for lower wages—almost fifty percent of what men earned. Common jobs for women were clerical, factory work, and domestic service. Employed married women did double duty with a job and taking care of their home.

content.jpegAccording to Laura Hapke, writing in Daughters of the Great Depression (available on Amazon), married women were forbidden from government and other employment by a section of the Federal Economy Act. Women were also denied equal pay for equal work under the 1933 National Recovery Administration code (NRA). Even though women’s wages were higher by three percent by the mid-thirties, on average their wages were still only equal to about fifty percent of a man’s average wage. Legislation more often supported protective rather than egalitarian laws when it came to women’s rights.

The NRA of 1933 was one of the most important measures of FDR’s New Deal, enacted in his first one hundred days of office. Designed to reverse the economic collapse of the Great Depression, it succeeded only partially in its goals. The NRA was declared unconstitutional in 1935, less than three weeks before it would have expired.

We still struggle today as a nation to grant equality to all our citizens. I leave you with the words of Mahatma Gandhi:


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